References: Venomous Snakes - Acton, Texas A quick note about venomous vs. poisonous. There are no...
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Transcript of References: Venomous Snakes - Acton, Texas A quick note about venomous vs. poisonous. There are no...
This publication is designed to educate people about
venomous snakes. It also serves to help dispel some of
the misinformation and fears people have about these
We are only focusing on venomous snakes in North
America but the general principles of education and
conservation can apply to venomous snakes anywhere.
There are several types of venomous snakes in North
America that are not harmful to humans but are toxic to
prey like earthworms and slugs. However, we are only
highlighting the venomous snakes that are considered
toxic to humans.
A quick note about venomous vs. poisonous. There are
no poisonous snakes in North America. In fact there is
only one known poisonous snake in the world, the keel-
back snake, and it is also venomous. So what’s the dif-
ference between poisonous and venomous? Poisons are
either ingested or topically (skin) delivered. Examples
of poisonous organisms are poison dart frogs. You
have to handle and/or eat the frogs to get sick from
their poisons. Venom on the other hand is injected.
Examples of venomous organisms are bees, spiders, and
For more copies or a free electric version of
this publication please email us.
The Wandering Herpetologist
Facts and Myths
1. Frequently Asked Questions About Venomous Snakes. 2007.
University of Florida, Department of Wildlife Ecology
and Conservation, Johnson Lab.
2. Price, A. H. 2009. Texas Natural History Guide: Venomous
Snakes of Texas. University of Texas Press. Austin, Texas.
3. Means, D. B. 2008. Stalking the Plumed Serpent and Other
Adventures in Herpetology. Pineapple Press, Inc. Sarasota,
4. BioPark Rattlesnakes Used In Ground-Breaking Cancer Re-
search. 2011. City of Albuquerque.
Myth: A good snake is a dead snake.
Fact: Venomous snakes and snakes in general have got-
ten an undeserved bad reputation over the years. All
snakes are beneficial and play important parts in their
ecosystems. Most venomous snakes are apex predators
that help keep nuisance species like rodents and rabbits in
check. Their venom is medically important too. Medical
science is creating new pharmaceuticals from the proteins
found in snake venom to help treat cancer, heart disease,
diabetes, and other diseases.
Hopefully this publication has served to help dispel a few
of the myths and misinformation about these fascinating
organisms. We encourage you to learn more about ven-
omous snakes and the beneficial roles they play in our
(c)2012 The Wandering Herpetologist
Myth: Venomous snakes cause a large number of casualties
Fact: There are more casualties in the United States due to
car accidents (37,594), lightning strikes (54), and dog attacks
(21) each year than from venomous snakebites (5). Approxi-
mately 7,000-8,000 people are envenomated each year in the
United States but there is only an average of 5 casualties1. In
Texas alone, there were more casualties in 2005 from drown-
ing (308), firearms/hunting (79), and venomous arthropods
(16) than venomous snakebites (2)2.
Myth: All venomous snakes are aggressive and willing to
Fact: Like all wild animals venomous snakes will bite when
threatened. However, these snakes prefer to hide or run-
away from what they see as a threat. Venomous snakes only
strike when they are cornered and think they must defend
themselves. It’s very costly to the snakes to use their venom
for defense instead of food. For example stories of cotton-
mouths aggressively chasing people have been easily dis-
pelled. The snakes will run towards the easiest escape route
and cover. Unfortunately sometimes people are standing in
the middle of that route so it seems that the snakes are chas-
ing them instead3.
We have two main types of venomous snakes in North
America: pit vipers and coral snakes.
Pit vipers are members of
the Crotalidae family that
includes rattlesnakes, cop-
perheads, and cotton-
mouths. They have heat-
sensing pits on their faces
that help them find warm-
blooded prey like rabbits
and rodents. Pit vipers
also have hinged hollow
Coral snakes are members of
the Elapidae family that in-
cludes cobras and kraits. Coral
snakes are usually red, yellow,
and black in color. They pos-
sess fixed fangs that are not
long and hinged like those of a
pit viper. Coral snakes are con-
sidered the most toxic snakes in
Now let’s discuss some facts and myths about venomous
Myth: All snakes are venomous.
Fact: There’s about 160 species of snakes in North
America and only 20 of them are venomous. This means
that only 12.5% of all snakes in North America are ven-
Venomous Snakes: Facts and Myths
Pit vipers like this Eastern Dia-
mondback Rattlesnake have
heat-sensing pits on thier face.
Coral snakes in the U.S.
have red, yellow, and
(c)184 John E. Holbrook
Northern Pacific Rattle-
snakes use their venom
to capture prey like mice
There is a greater
chance of getting hit
by lightning than
by a Cottonmouth.
Copperheads are shy,
reclusive snakes that
attempt to hide when
they perceive danger.
venom is being used
in cancer treatments4.